When people say they want a “toned” look but do not want to put on too much muscle, they are unknowingly saying they want to build lean muscle. You can accomplish this by doing exercises within the four to six rep range, AKA lift substantially heavy weights.
What toning is NOT:
Lifting light weights
Doing high reps
Doing tons of cardio
Eating super low calories
What toning actually is:
Lifting heavy weights
Doing reps for strength
Doing less cardio
Eating for moderate fat loss
I understand you may think lifting heavy weights is counter-intuitive to what you want. But what you’re really looking to do is strip away access body fat while building lean muscle or at least maintaining lean muscle and the reality of that is it’s a lot easier said than done.
When people want to lose body fat, I often see people resorting to crash diets, lots and lots of cardio and high rep exercises - which is actually creating the perfect storm for fat and muscle loss.
This can potentially create the skinny fat look when you do reach your goal weight. Yes, you may be skinnier and the scale weight may go down, but now you lack the definition and muscle “tone” you were going for.
Training with heavier weights for strength will develop the actual muscle itself compared to doing higher reps which tend to add more fluid around the muscle fibers.
That “burn” you feel when you’re doing higher reps and lighter weights is no real measure of progress or muscle growth at all.
In reality, fat loss is just a game of consistency and patience. Here are my top tips to ensure fat loss:
Training for strength by doing compound movements such as deadlifts, bench presses, overhead pressing, squats, pull-ups. Do these bigger movements within the 4-6 rep range and GO HEAVY. You’re whole workout doesn’t need to be like this BUT I would recommend setting this rep range for at least 2-3 movements in a given workout. Also, do these heavy compound movements first.
Stop viewing cardio as the only way to lose stubborn body fat. You can potentially be sabotaging your gains and not even know it. The more cardio you do, the more difficult it’s going to be to build muscle, especially distance.
Eating enough to fuel your body. So if you’ve been eating in a deficit, consider reverse dieting and giving your metabolism a little break. If you’ve been eating in maintenance and still seeing little to no results, consider dropping calories a bit more and focusing on other variables such as quality of sleep and de-stressing.
We know that there is no perfect training plan for everyone but if you want a solid lifting routine to follow, I encourage you to check out my 12-week online coaching program!